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Growing and Sustaining Catholic Schools: Lessons From Philly

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 2.13.55 PMAccording to a new report, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia will have happy news to share with Pope Francis when he comes to visit in September.

Across the United States, Catholic schools have been suffering declining enrollment, but Faith in the Future has announced that the Philadelphia system of Catholic schools are now projecting growth in the number of students they serve. Additionally, the high school system, previously in deficit, is now reporting a surplus in funds, which are being reinvested back into the schools themselves.

While Pennsylvania Catholic schools have also generally benefited from the state’s two tax credit scholarship programs, which allow parents who might not otherwise be able to afford to send their kids to Catholic schools to choose that option. While public policy solutions are important to keep on the table, as they could have a huge impact on the ability of the religious school sector as a whole to remain solvent, Catholic school leaders can’t wait for the next governor to make school choice his or her priority; the crisis is real and now.

In 2011, The Center for Education Reform issued a policy alert taking a critical look at the issues facing struggling Catholic schools, suggesting that the future success of Catholic schools will be tied directly to the ability of Catholic school leaders to integrate faith missions with business skills, and embracing the kinds of changes taking place in the education marketplace at large.

And indeed, the Faith in the Future report notes part of the reason for significant progress has been “reinforcing business process in pursuit of a new growth strategy.”

Acknowledging that it is still early, Faith in the Future believes they are

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Nation’s Only District-Level Voucher Program Ruled Unconstitutional

CER Press Release
Washington, D.C.
June 29, 2015

The Colorado State Supreme Court in a 4-3 vote today ruled the Douglas County Choice Scholarship Pilot Program unconstitutional.

“While the program was limited, only serving 500 students, it’s extremely disappointing that this option is no longer available to parents as a means for them to choose the best education for their child,” said Kara Kerwin, president of The Center for Education Reform.

The program was set up to allow parents to choose where 75 percent, or approximately $6,000, of the district’s per-pupil funding should be sent as a scholarship to a non-religious or religious private school of their choice.

Although the court decided that voucher opponents lacked standing to challenge the Choice Scholarship Pilot Program under the Public School Finance Act, it ruled the voucher program violated the state’s Blaine Amendment provisions, which place constitutional restrictions on aid to religious schools.

The program has been tied up in legal challenges since its creation in 2011. Opponents prevailed in their initial challenge, but the Colorado Court of Appeals overturned the ruling, upholding the constitutionality of the program in late February 2013.

“With a Parent Power Index score of 76 percent, Colorado still has a long way to go in meeting the demand that exists for parents to be able to choose from a portfolio of education options,” said Kerwin. “While the state does permit parents to choose among traditional public schools within the state if there’s room, it’s essential Colorado create more avenues so more parents are able to access excellent learning environments of all kinds. We stand with Douglas County leaders and parents who will continue to fight for parent choice in education by asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider this case.”

In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court in the Zelman v.

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School voucher program on hold for N.C. Supreme Court

by Emery P. Dalesio, Associated Press
Wilmington Star-News
June 13, 2015

A state program that uses taxpayer money to pay student tuition at private and religious schools is headed for uncertainty for the second straight year as North Carolina judge grapple with whether it’s constitutional.

The latest batch of rulings by the N.C. Supreme Court last week didn’t include its decision on whether the Opportunity Scholarships program can continue. The court isn’t scheduled to issue opinions again until late August, about the time classes resume for the new academic year.

Though the Supreme Court could announce a decision in the voucher case before then, parents such as KC Cooper of Statesville are facing weeks of wondering whether a ruling could mean pulling their child out of school after classes start. It looked like that was possible last August, when a trial judge ruled the program an unconstitutional use of state money. Appeals court judges stepped in weeks later and allowed the money to flow for the year.

“This uncertainty, it’s something that I don’t want to give energy to. I want to keep the faith and believe that it will push through just like last year,” said Cooper, 42, who used the voucher program to enroll her special-needs 7th-grader in a Christian school last fall.

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Why D.C. Parents NEED School Vouchers

In 4th Grade, Shirley-Ann Tomdio’s life changed forever when she was accepted into the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP), which allowed her to transfer from a failing D.C. public school to Sacred Heart, a private Catholic school. Shirley, the daughter of two Cameroon, African immigrants, used the voucher for nine years.

Shirley testified to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on May 14, 2015 at Archbishop Carroll High School in Northeast D.C. to discuss the possibility of reauthorizing the DCOSP.

“In 2009, I graduated Sacred Heart School as the valedictorian and took my Opportunity Scholarship across town to Georgetown Visitation (Prep School)!” Shirley told federal lawmakers on Thursday. “At Visitation, I made Second Honors my first two years and First Honors in my third and fourth year. I was a decorated member of the track and field team, co-editor of our school’s Art and Literary magazine, a cheerleader for our school’s pep rally, and the Secretary and Treasurer of the Black Women’s Society. In May 2013, I walked across the stage and accepted my diploma.”

The voucher program for low-income children was enacted a year after congress passed the D.C. School Choice Incentive Act of 2003. The program has been extraordinarily successful for the District’s most disadvantaged children. Consider:

The scholarship program has been under assault since President Obama took office. The program ceased to exist in the first year he took office, but came back in 2011 through passage of the bipartisan SOAR Act. Every single year since then, his Administration has proposed to

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Congress weighs funding for D.C. school vouchers

by Andrea Noble
The Washington Times
May 14, 2015

Shirley-Ann Tomdio, a junior at George Washington University studying to be an orthopedic surgeon, ticked off a list of accomplishments that would make any parent proud.

The daughter of Cameroonian immigrants, Ms. Tomdio earned honors before graduating from Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, was an editor of her school’s literary magazine, won awards on the track team and serves as a leader of a women’s empowerment group.

Speaking about her accomplishments before a panel of federal lawmakers Thursday in the auditorium of Archbishop Carroll High School, Ms. Tomdio credited her successes to her parents’ perseverance, as well as a school voucher program that made it possible for her to attend to the private high school.

“The scholarship has allowed me to build a strong foundation for myself,” she said. “As the oldest, I have to set an example for my siblings and most importantly, myself.”

Congress is gearing up to reauthorize funding for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program that aided Ms. Tomdio — a school voucher program that provides disadvantaged families with money to subsidize their children’s enrollment at private schools in the nation’s capital. Meanwhile, President Obama’s fiscal 2016 budget includes cuts to the program.

A GOP-controlled Congress established the federal voucher program in 2004, which has awarded stipends of up to $12,572 per student to send more than 6,000 D.C. children to private schools.

But since its establishment, the program has been a point of political contention, with critics questioning its impact on student achievement and calling on the government to focus resources on public schools.

Program supporters say it gives families a choice outside a troubled public school system.

“Despite spending more per student than any jurisdiction in the country, D.C. Public Schools continue to struggle when it comes to educating students,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Utah Republican,

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Newswire: April 28, 2015

Vol. 17, No. 17

CHOICE IS POWER. This editor of Newswire had the pleasure to sit down with a mom yesterday to talk about her son’s education and the impact making a choice has had on his life. Barbara left D.C. in the mid-90s to escape the violence and chose to move to suburban Virginia to give her kids a fighting chance. Her youngest son was struggling in a big suburban school, where the achievement gap is only growing among white and black students. She decided to move back to D.C. recently because she has witnessed how school choice has changed her community for the better, and now her son is thriving and has aspirations for college. Congress passed the controversial D.C. School Reform Act in 1996 to bring dramatic change to the nation’s capital and #edreform has done just that. Barbara said that “people aren’t inherently bad, but they make bad decisions when they have no choice in the matter.” She noted the people in her community haven’t changed since the mid-90s, but school choice has empowered them to make better decisions and aspire for something greater. The nation is watching Baltimore clean up from yesterday’s destruction caused in large part by young schoolchildren that have no choice in a city where violence looks a lot like D.C. did twenty years ago. Meanwhile, advocates continue to battle the status quo in Annapolis who believe “small progress” and a political win are more important than taking the bold and controversial steps as D.C. once did to empower parents in Baltimore and throughout Maryland.

FUNDING FIASCOS. In Connecticut, lawmakers are toying with children’s futures by eliminating funding for two already approved charter schools, Capital Prep Harbor School in Bridgeport and Stamford Charter School for Excellence. Dr. Steve

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Jeanne Allen Condemns DOJ Action Against Louisiana Vouchers


CER Statement
Washington, DC
August 25, 2013

Jeanne Allen, founder and president, The Center for Education Reform, today issued the following statement condemning the U.S. Department of Justice for its unprecedented Saturday motion seeking to prevent Louisiana from offering school vouchers to children in certain areas of the Bayou State, beginning in the 2014-2015 school year:

“The fact that Attorney General Eric Holder chose to file this motion on a day of festivities commemorating the March on Washington can only demonstrate one of two things. It either shows that he has a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of vouchers in creating education opportunities for children, or that he has a corrosive cynicism about the power of educational choice to improve educational performance and to meet parent demands for better outcomes.

Perhaps Mr. Holder will explain his actions in coming days, but for me one thing is clear: education is the civil rights issue of our day and equality should guide the manner in which we educate children, not their zip code. School choice programs ignore the artificial boundaries set by politicians and work for the good of all children. The resulting school options have been embraced by parents, not just because they work, but because they are the right thing to do.”

Others who have condemned DOJ’s unprecedented action:

Louisiana Federation for Children:
http://louisiana4children.org/news-releases/obama-admin-files-suit-to-stop-louisiana-children-from-having-access-to-high-quality-educational-options

Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana:
http://gov.louisiana.gov/index.cfm?md=newsroom&tmp=detail&articleID=4208

DC Vouchers: Success on All Fronts

The numbers are in from the 2012-13 school year, and parents with students in the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program are overwhelmingly satisfied with schools their children attend, as well as their children’s academic progress.

It’s not hard to see why parents are happy, with 97% of DC OSP students graduating from high school and 91% enrolling at a 2-or-4 year college.

Please see here for the complete Parental Satisfaction & Program Summary for the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program 2012-2013.

For more information on school choice, check out Facts on School Choice and the Parent Power Index.

School Choice Indiana to hold voucher info meeting at library

by Amanda Browning
Greensburg Daily News
June 17, 2013

School Choice Indiana will hold an informational meeting for Decatur County parents interested in learning more about the tuition voucher program.

Supporters of the voucher program argue that all schools are not created equal. Whether it be due to the class quality, funding, or some other reason, every school is not the perfect fit for every child, they argue. Private schools are usually smaller institutions that can offer more individual attention to each child, compared to larger public schools that must accommodate many more students. According to the Center for Education Reform, the average tuition for a private elementary school is $6,733 and private secondary school tuition averages $10,549 per year. For many families in Decatur County, that tuition would be so expensive as to prevent low income families from sending children there and perhaps denying children the level of education and attention they require.

One Hoosier organization seeks to change that by informing parents of the educational options available. School Choice Indiana is a non-partisan, statewide non-for-profit organization dedicated to expanding quality education options for Hoosier families. They have several programs Indiana families can use to send their child to a school that best meets the child’s individual educational needs.

The voucher program information meeting will be held at the Greensburg Public Library in the conference room on June 18. The meeting is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. Local parents that are interested in exploring the available educational options for their children may want to attend. The state’s school voucher program, tax credit scholarships, tax deductions and other forms of school choice will be discussed during the meeting.

For the 2012-2013 school year, more than 9,000 students participated in the program statewide, allowing those children to experience an educational environment that is best suited

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What makes a person who benefitted from choice repel it?

“Do you have a card?”

She had a huge smile, coming up to me right after I spoke to the NC House Education Committee —the largest, it would seem, in the free world with 53 members (!)– about the need for opportunity scholarships to provide poor children access to quality schools.

“Um, I’ll get you one,” I answered. Then I noticed her sticker on her lapel, which was a circle, with the word vouchers in the middle, and a SLASH through the word.

“Why do you want my card, you clearly don’t agree with me,” I responded.

The inquirer responded – “I just want to know who is paying you; where you get your money.”

Wow. So belief is all about who pays you? I was stunned.

Her name was Elizabeth Haddix, and it turns out Elizabeth works for the UNC School of Law Office of Civil Rights.

During the whole hearing, this man stood behind her, near the door, and cued her with motions and non-verbal hand signals as people were talking. (See minute 44:16 in the video of the hearing below.) He actually looked like the union boss in “Won’t Back Down.” But upon further research, it turns out, he’s the manager of said Office of Civil Rights, and, it would seem, her coach.

It was a quick hearing, and only an hour was allocated for pro- and con-, and the basic introdution of the bill by members, but clearly Elizabeth waited with anticipation to deliver a zinger of remarks… which never came because they had to stop the hearing due to time. Thankfully, the voucher hearing

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